Ahhh... if we were all so eager, if we were all so teachable, if we were all excited about the little things in life...
Happy is a dwarf that you hear about less and less over the years. He sort of blends in. While he is far from perfect, and clearly has his "moments", for the most part he is just as his name implies. Happy! He is a people pleaser. He enjoys being part of something bigger than himself. He loves doing things for others. He is not afraid of physical hard work. He will even rise to the occasion of mental exertion if we lay out the ground work in advance for his success. Over the years we have determined that Happy, is content in who he is (oh there was a period of uncertainty; but we did not linger in it) and he is happiest when he is serving others or is a member of something bigger than himself!
Spoiler Alert: If you are not interested in reading me brag about my special needs adopted kid, who has a ton of reasons to be okay just existing in life, but has chosen on purpose or by accident to be exceptional, then please stop reading now.
Happy came to us 8 years ago at the age of 9. He was a tall skinny kid for his age, who's most distinguishing feature aside from his smile was the size of his ears. (I am happy to report he has finally grown into those!) He has a heart condition, VSD (ventricular Septal Defect), he is academically behind his peers, with an significantly low IQ, making him ID (intellectually deficient) placing him academically at a 3rd grade learning level. This can and does occasionally create significant issues in social situations and in basic communication functions, but most expressly in his ability to discuss his feelings, frustrations and even his joy. Over all Happy is just mostly just happy. Happy to help, happy to do something or nothing. Happy to be alone, or to be with a crowd.
The Prince and I have had all the regular struggles that parents of special needs children have in regards to knowing how to help him be successful, and reach goals that are appropriate and obtainable at each stage in his life. Because of lower than average cognitive skills and low social skills it has been a constant juggling of all areas in his life. Just about a year ago we thought we had found a good balance for him. He had a good placement at school, was excelling in their work program and in life skills, and was doing odd jobs on the weekend with some folks from church. He was really thriving where he was planted!
Then we uprooted him and moved him 1100 miles from everything that he knew and was comfortable with. We girded up our loins, as we expected this transition to be very difficult for Happy. Happy however during this time of transition, oblivious to all things that were expected of him, starting tracking his own path in this world!
In July, he determined that he wanted to get his boating license. (No we do not have a boat... but we do have friends with one, and they let him "drive" it and he was hooked) The class was online and you did not pay for the class unless you passed and got your license. He was relentless, he took the exam over and over and over again, until he finally got the needed percentage correct to pass. He is officially and proudly a licensed boat driver!!
In August he began school at a new public high school in a great life skills program. He excelled! He was getting rave reviews from the staff and from the volunteers. They started looking for extra things for him to do, like help in the cafeteria, so that he could do and be more challenged in his day. It was about this time, that he started seeing his siblings wearing their JROTC uniforms, and the Prince and I would catch him star gazing at their reading materials and spending time trying to learn what he could about the program. He even talked to the Prince on the side one day about whether or not he could be in the JROTC. We thought it was too late in the year, but promised to look into it for next year for him. Well it turns out while we were talking to the staff about the possibility, he was taking matters into his own hands (as much as he could) and was sharing his desire to be part of the program with his teacher. She made some inquiries and he is now a proud member of the JROTC. He of course takes great pride in his appearance, as I sat last night "fixing a button" on a back pocket that was not regulation tightness, I can attest to the seriousness that he assigns being part of this organization.
About the same time of the JROTC change, the school started announcing that in October there were going to be soccer tryouts. Now Happy has played baseball for a season, and soccer for a season, but typically ended up being placed on the teams because of lack of players or the fact he had other siblings that were playing. We did not hold any hope that he would make this high school team, as most of the boys trying out, I think came out of the womb playing soccer. Additionally, he has no working knowledge of the game, or the rules aside from you kick the ball into the net. As a diligent parent I contacted the coach, and explained that while we were happy to send Happy to the tryout's, I wanted him to be aware of some of the issues that he has, and limitations. I was told that they were happy to let him attend the tryouts, could make no promises, but indicated that they would treat him fairly and if he was dismissed or awarded a spot on the team, it would be based solely on his efforts. Because it is hard to get the accurate information, we thought tryouts were one week long. They turned out to be three weeks in length. Happy was at every tryout. He did everything he was told to do. He ran hard, never quit and ALWAYS had a smile on his face. Each night as I picked him up from the fields I started to notice a strange phenomenon... he went from standing alone waiting for me, to standing beside the other boys trying out, to wait for me. Instead of not acknowledging the other boys and them responding in kind to his departure, there began to be head nods at one another and grunts. One day Sleepy came home to report that a young man trying out for the team asked if Happy was her brother, she replied, "yes one of 4" to which this young man said "well we are all rooting for him to make the team, he is really working hard!" Ah, how simple words uttered in casual passing can make a mommas heart soar! Well he made the team. Not the varsity team, but the JV team. Not first string, but 2nd goalie. He is so proud. I went last night to the game, I headed over around halftime. There he was tending our vacant goal. We were in the second half of a game, which was really a blow away - 7 us, zero them, to find him contently standing there at the ready, to defend that goal. When his team scored an 8th and final goal, and they called the game with 20 minutes left, he was a bit dazed, but his teammates quickly called him in, and he hustled to join them in the end of the game huddle. He is learning. Why? Because it is important to him.
Somewhere between Pennsylvania and Florida, whether he realized it or not, Happy made a decision to participate in life, not let life pass him by. The Prince and I could not be prouder of him! I am SO grateful to the Lord that Happy is thriving in his new environment and that I don't have to make this stuff up!!